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Sealaska to enter plasma business

Investment part of corporation's strategy to be involved in smaller, service-sector businesses

Posted: Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Sealaska, the regional Native corporation for Southeast Alaska, has invested $3.75 million in International Bio Resources, a Louisiana-based company specializing in the collection and sale of blood plasma.

The board of directors announced the investment, which was finalized June 19, at Sealaska's 30th annual shareholder meeting held in Anchorage on Saturday.

The newly formed Sealaska Life Sciences LLC will manage the investment, which amounted to 10 percent ownership of International Bio Resources, as well as look for other investments in the health-care field, company officials said.

International Bio Resources operates five blood plasma collection centers in the United States. Plasma, the liquid portion of human blood, is used to restore blood volume in shock, trauma and surgery patients. It also is used in the treatment of infectious diseases and in controlling hemophilia. The company hopes to expand to 39 plasma collection centers by 2006.

The investment fits into Sealaska's long-range plan of having smaller, service-oriented investments with the opportunity for growth, said Albert Kookesh, chairman of the Sealaska board of directors, in a phone interview from Angoon.

"It's not the major thing that we're looking at for the next couple of years, but it's something smaller that can be a year-round business instead of seasonal," he said.

Sealaska President and CEO Chris McNeil Jr. was traveling and couldn't be reached for further comment.

Joseph Nelson, a lawyer with the Juneau-based law firm of Simpson, Tillinghast, Sorensen and Longenbaugh, was elected to serve a three-year term on the Sealaska board of directors at the meeting. A Juneau resident, Nelson is the only new director on the 13-member board. Kookesh, Ethel Lund, Richard Stitt Sr. and Marjorie Young were re-elected to three-year terms at the meeting.

The five directors who won the election were those endorsed by the Sealaska board of directors before the meeting. Seven independent candidates also ran for the board.

Sixty-two percent of Sealaska's 17,000 shareholders participated in the election, either by attending the meeting or by proxy. About 2,000 shareholders live in Juneau.

In May, Sealaska announced $40.5 million in net earnings in 2002. One of the corporation's most profitable investments was in the Alaska Native Wireless project, a partnership between AT&T Wireless and several Alaska Native corporations. AT&T bought the Native corporations out of the business for $66.7 million in 2001, and will pay an additional $20 million in interest by 2007.

The other profitable investment for the corporation was in a casino built by the San Pasqual Indian Band in San Diego County, Calif., in 2001. The investment contributed $8.7 million to Sealaska's 2002 income.

In a reorganizational board meeting held immediately after the shareholder meeting, Kookesh was renamed chairman of the board. Rosita F. Worl was named vice chairwoman.

Christine Schmid can be reached at cschmid@juneauempire.com.



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